‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ Review: Feel-Good Queer Rom-Com Is Lightweight Silliness

The son of a president and a British royal fall for each other in this contrived, preposterous confection that's all too sweet.

Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez in Red, White & Royal Blue. Jonathan Prime/Prime Video

A feel-good fairy tale that collapses under the weight of its own silliness, Red, White and Royal Blue is a gay rom-com that dazzles visually but defies all attempts at anything resembling plausibility. It is written and directed by Matthew López, the esteemed playwright who wrote The Inheritance, the acclaimed play that startled and enthralled London and Broadway. This time around, he seems to have taken leave of his senses. Lavishly appointed and beautifully photographed, it’s gorgeous to look at, but as weighty and consequential to think about as a half-eaten popsicle.   

RED, WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE ★★ (2/4 stars)
Directed by: Matthew López
Written by: Matthew López, Ted Malawer
Starring: Taylor Zakhar Perez, Nicholas Galitzine, Uma Thurman, Stephen Fry, Sarah Shahi, Rachel Hilson, Ellie Bamber
Running time: 118 mins.

Alexander Claremont-Diaz (Taylor Zakhar Perez) is the son of the first female President of the United States (Uma Thurman). Prince Henry (Nicholas Galatzine) is the grandson of the king of England and a possible future heir to the throne. They are movie-star handsome, articulate, and charismatic. But for reasons devoid of logic, they hate each other, sending toxic waves of hostility and rancor across the pond at regular intervals. Reluctantly, Alex attends a fancy wedding reception at Buckingham Palace that results in an international incident when the royal wedding cake that cost 75,000 pounds falls on Henry and Alex and makes headlines. Alex returns to Washington in disgrace, and to repair the damaged relations between the White House and the royal family, he is sent back to London with orders to make friends with Prince Henry and declare a truce. One contrived meeting leads to another until, as often happens in preposterous movies that should never stray far from cable television re-runs, the two fellows shake hands, animosity turns to friendship, and in the process, while the two sworn enemies make up, they also make out. Prince Harry plants a bit wet smackeroo on Alex’s mouth and he likes it.

Sarah Shahi, Taylor Zakhar Perez, and Uma Thurman (from left) in Red, White & Royal Blue. Jonathan Prime/Prime Video

Most of what we’ve seen lately about how modern and unconventional both the sons of American presidents and the younger members of the royal family can be is regrettably repulsive, so maybe there’s a hidden motive in telling this absurd story. To read some perverse logic into it, imagine Prince Harry shagging Hunter Biden. Otherwise, the movie chalks up almost two hours of visits back and forth across the pond, a weekend between the sheets in Paris, and a romance laced with thinly veiled gay jokes. When Alex strips naked and prepares to lose his virginity, he confesses he’s “never done this before” and Henry retorts: “I went to an English boys’ school, so trust me, you’re in good hands.” Discussing their impossible names, Alex shrugs: “Alexander Claremont-Diaz is quite a mouthful.” To which Henry replies: “He certainly is.”

It gets worse. Visiting Alex in Texas, where he is supervising his mother’s re-election campaign, the prince falls for karaoke and barbecue sauce. When Alex finally comes out to his mother, her main concern is that his son’s lover might be a Republican. Alex questions the relevance of Britain’s royal family in a new, troubled century and Henry, facing reality at last, rejects the possibility of same-sex marriage with, “My life is the crown, yours is politics, and I won’t trade one prison for another.”

For all of its candor, the sex scenes never resort to anything more than random tenderness, the dialogue is polite but rarely insightful, and the script fails to resolve any of the issues it raises. Henry’s grandfather (a somber turn by the great Stephen Fry) allows the prince to surrender to reckless impulse, the same public the royal family wants to please and protect to avoid scandal now rallies to Henry’s defense and supports him unconditionally, and everyone kisses and holds hands in time for a happy Technicolor ending for all and sundry. It’s relentlessly corny, unconvincing, and phony as a newly printed set of pound notes. But the most outrageous premise of all is that, in the final resolution, the defeated incumbent President, in the middle of writing her concession speech, is informed that the Texas Republicans who threatened to destroy her political future because her son was gay suddenly embrace Alex’s right to love whomever he chooses and surrender the election.   Yeah, sure, and if you believe that one, I’ve got a cache of tickets to the next Taylor Swift concert I can sell you for two bucks apiece.

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ Review: Feel-Good Queer Rom-Com Is Lightweight Silliness